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Two more mysterious rogue planets found



Rogue planets travel through outer space without orbiting a star, and scientists have now discovered two more of these free-floating worlds.

For centuries, the existence of rogue planets was hypothetical. Because they are not near a star that illuminates them, they are extremely hard to spot. Then a technique called gravitational microlenses was used.

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Scientists use gravitational microlenses to find planets, finding that a rogue planet intercepts the light of a star from our point of view. The planet suddenly acts as a lens to the light of the star and bends it as it would be seen from Earth. The bigger the planet, the bigger the interruption.

It is not the most efficient system. Some astronomers (like Neil DeGrasse Tyson) estimate that there are billions of rogue planets in the Milky Way. While humanity has proven its worth in the search for star-related exoplanets, scientists have identified only a dozen rogues. That's why adding two more stacks is such a big deal.

The planets are officially called OGLE-201

7-BLG-0560 and OGLE-2012-BLG-1323 respectively, and there's a lot we do not know about. Their names come from their discovery at the Optical Gravitation Lensing Experiment at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. The first could be anywhere between the size of Jupiter and the size of Jupiter 20, while the latter is somewhere between the size of Earth and Neptune. How far they are from the solar system is not known.

Scientists hope the Transiting Exoplanet Survey satellite, launched on April 16, will give exoplanets and rogue planet hunters a new edge as they learn more about the mysterious bodies that apparently surround the solar system.

Source: Motherboard


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